Porcelain

Waves hushed sounds of traffic far behind. Tiny fingers grasped mine, pulling past flowers and trees, little feet skipping over loose stones.
I took one step for her four.
She hadn’t told me our destination; “it’s a surprise Mummy.”
She glanced back, round eyes gleaming and all smiles, “we’re close!”
I couldn’t help but smile with her, adoration running deep.
Her pace slowed and I looked up.
I froze.
Upon a bed of grass, decorated with turquoise waves, lay a porcelain tea set; the one from my first birthday.
“Surprise, Mummy,” she beamed.
I hid tears in her embrace.


This is this week’s contribution to the 99 word flash fiction challenge over at the Carrot Ranch.
Charli’s prompt provided an image and the idea of a garden party, and I used both for inspiration.

So little time

He walked in the door. Little feet came running with tiny fingers reaching. Nudging aside a few toys strewn across his path, he made his way to the couch. Little feet followed, their voices tumbling over each other as they fought for his attention. He picked up the oldest for cuddles as the littlest ran off. The littlest returned, struggling to drag him a rocking horse before pounding a tiny fist on his leg. He released the oldest despite protests and gathered up the littlest, mind whirling with tiny voices of complaint and excitement, eyes flicking back and forth.

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“Character Symptoms” was this week’s prompt for the Carrot Ranch’s Flash Fiction Challenge.

I struggled to find something for this prompt. I think it’s mostly because my expectations were too high. I wanted to write something interesting, something different. I started a piece based on a scene I’m currently working on for my novel, with the hope of learning something more about the characters themselves.

It had an awesome Sci-Fi feel, high-tech and everything. I wanted to represent the perspective of a reformed ex-felon in a high-stakes situation from someone else’s POV…That piece felt forced.

I scrapped it.

This, on the other hand, is something I see almost every day—if he gets home before their bedtime—and it’s another piece written from a tender place.

Character Symptoms” is such a broad topic. Initially I had no idea how to interpret this prompt.

I didn’t want to write about just anything; I wanted to write about something deeper than the usual things the news makes society stress about; I didn’t want to write about superficial things.

Being a parent is one of the great honours of life. Being a parent in today’s society is also unnaturally stressful.

As a parent you want to provide the best for your children and in today’s society, the best always seems to cost inordinate amounts of money. To make that money, one must work. One must work long hours in most cases.

We are lucky in that I am able to be stay-at-home with our little ones, but on the same note, my other half; their dad’s mind is on work for most hours of every day. He carries a lot of responsibilities in order to have the job stability he currently has; his workplace would struggle without him, and thus, there is a lot he must manage and keep on top of.

This means that when he gets home, and is lucky enough to see the little ones for an hour or two before their bed, though they may be super excited to see him and suddenly filled with an abundance of little person energy, his mind is still whirling from the seriousness of his job.
Though he is home, there are things that he can still solve for work if only he used that extra time to continue thinking on issues. If he’s not giving his job all of his efforts, then he doesn’t feel like he’s doing the best he can, and thus shouldn’t have the position or the privileges that come with it.

Unfortunately, his mind becomes so overworked—and I’m sure that most of society can relate—he struggles to make himself emotionally available and present for the little ones.
Every morning he leaves and his heart breaks as they beg him not to go, to stay just a little longer and read them a book or give them extra cuddles. And he can’t even promise that he’ll see them that night.

There are too many stresses in today’s society; you either work and sacrifice precious time together, or you struggle financially and stress about your child’s opportunities instead.

It’s a fine line between managing your time between work and family life. A stress that I think is inevitable; though I do hope more and more families are feeling equipped enough to discover their own balance, and confident enough to make the changes, trusting in their love for their partner and children.

Once again, I’m finding that love comes into play in life. It seems to be the defining factor between the strong and the struggling. Whether it’s love for and from your family or love for yourself. That honest, unconditional love, that forgives human mistakes, can help in almost every situation.

The more of society who understand this concept will mean less stress for all; people will be making better choices for the benefit of everyone, rather than fearing and trying to maintain their own survival in this stressful world.

It’s tough and heartbreaking at times, but worth it.

Invincible

Mind cycling through the daily routine, I slowly slide off the bed. I waddle around with my swollen belly, pain erupting from inconveniently placed baby kicks.
I feed the animals, step back inside, breathe. Head spins from standing too long washing dishes. Turn on washing machine, more pain; crouch down, turn, bend, breathe.
I waddle up the stairs. Panting at the top, I head toward the girls’ room.
“Good-morning Mum-mum!” my three year old squeaks, “cuddle please!”
I embrace her.
She nuzzles into my chest “I love you thousands and millions!”
My heart swells and I feel invincible again.

So So Clever

I braced myself and lifted my two year old daughter out of her cot. She rubbed her eyes. I cuddled her close, the warmth from being curled under her blankets radiated from her. Her ringlets had lost their form, a scruffy mass of hair stuck out at all angles. Her big eyes, damp and a little red, gazed up at me.
She wrapped her tiny arms around my neck, cuddling in close. Her words muffled against my jumper, “I love you Mum-Mum,” she said, and my heart melted. I never tire of hearing her say that.
“Look at me,” I said, and she looked me in the eyes, waiting for what I wanted to say.
“You are so beautiful,” I said.
She cuddled back into my neck. “Thank you Mum-Mum,” she said.
“You’re welcome my darling,” I said, holding her tight, “Bubba, look at me.”
She did.
“You are so clever,” I said.
“Thank you Mum-Mum.” She smiled, cuddling into my neck once again.
But I had one more thing to say to my sleepy little girl before I let her run off to play.
“You’re welcome my darling. Last one Bubba, look at me please,” I said.
She did, but instead of waiting, she said, “I’m so so tired,” as she rubbed her eyes, before I could get a word out.
I laughed, and she laughed along with me before she grabbed my cheeks and gave me a super big kiss.
“I love you Bubba,” I said.
“Thank you Mum-Mum.”

Attached

Our eldest daughter slept like a baby as I peered into her cot, her baby sister in another cot beside her. The eldest was on her side, legs sprawled and mouth open, with tiny toddler hands tucked against her cheek. Her eyelids flickered as invisible dreams danced through her mind. Oh how I wish I could see inside. Her Dad-O and I are the ones who know her best but even we don’t understand everything.
All too often we find ourselves calling through the house for each other’s support.
“Bub, do you know what she is trying to say?”
“I’m not sure,” I reply, “I’m sorry darling, what’s wrong? What are you trying to say?”
I scan the room for hints on what she might be thinking; was it something on the TV? Is she hungry? Is she thirsty? Is she in pain? Has she invented a new way to play and she’s trying to show us? Has she remembered something we used to do with her? Is she confused? Is she asking us to clarify something for her? To make her life easier?
Her brow furrows as she gets lost in thought, trying to find the right words from her limited toddler vocabulary.
“We’re sorry baby, we don’t understand.”
All too often we see her give up, realising that she just cannot explain what she needs. Though others say that her speech is wonderful for her age, on the few times she struggles, my heart breaks, as I’m sure her Dad-O’s does too.
Granted, she’s an incredible toddler and rarely loses her temper, but she is so young, so innocent, isn’t it wrong for her needs to go unmet?
These are the things that I stress over when I leave her in another’s care.
Now, it may just be my anxiety and my need to be organised and to follow a strict plan – so everyone knows what to expect of each other, I tell myself. Or it may just be that I care for my daughter, and that this stress is another normal part of parenthood, for me at least. Who knows?
I struggled to resist stroking her hair or touching her cheek as she slept so peacefully, but my logical mind told me not to, that it would only make the evening that much more difficult if she were to wake.
You see, Dad-O and I are leaving now, mid-afternoon, for a late lunch, a dinner and a drink with old mates from his previous workplace. We’ve spent evenings together without our daughters before, but never from the afternoon onwards. Never in the middle of her nap time until well past her night bed time.
My anxiety starts to peak as I frantically think through everything that they’ll need for their lunch, their dinner and their bath and bed routine.
Did I explain which nappies were whose? Did I explain the correct amount of hot water to add to the youngest’s bottles? What if something happens to the pre-mixed bottles? Maybe I should make another bottle, just in case. Did I leave enough food for the eldest? Maybe I should prepare more food too, just in case. Did I get out everything for their bath time? What if they dirty those clothes? Should I get out another couple of sets of clothes out? Did I demonstrate how to tuck the baby into bed? What if she doesn’t want to sleep? What if she gets cranky and struggles through the evening routine? What if the eldest gets stressed from the baby being upset? What if she’s stressed that we’re not home? That we’ve just disappeared while she was sleeping. What if she thinks we’re not coming back?
I fight back tears as one thing piles onto another, and a simple covering of the bases blows up into me potentially foregoing the entire night.
I snap out of it and regain my composure. I do this every time. It’s something I’ve been working hard to control, and Dad-O does really well in supporting me, though I know I’ll never overcome it completely. It’ll always be there, in the back of my mind, telling me to turn around and go back, to protect them, to make sure that I know what’s happening and that I’ll have the control to make the best decision if something goes wrong. So I won’t regret leaving them if something does go wrong.
I leave their room, and walk down the hall, constantly cycling worries through my mind, trying to counter them in any way possible.
A new thought appears, one that has taken a lot of push and pull, but one that appears more often nowadays than it ever used to; they adore their nanny. They know what to expect from her and she knows what I need to feel assured that they’ll be okay. And they will be okay.
I step into the lounge, all spruced up with make-up and hair done, some pretty evening clothes on and maybe some lingerie underneath – something I don’t do often enough – and reluctantly announce that I’m ready to leave.
I take a seat in the car, breathing deep and telling myself over and over, they’ll be okay.
As a cherry on top, Dad-O leans over from the driver side, kisses me softly and – as though he read my mind – says, “they’ll be okay,” before he starts the car and we head off for what will be the longest I’ve ever been without the girls.

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